Microsoft Research on Thursday is releasing software that gives musicians, both casual and professional, a new way to speed up song development. Called Songsmith, the $29.99 application creates musical accompaniment based on whatever is sung into the computer's microphone.
In order to do this, the software processes the pitch and tone of what's recorded and lets users hear how it might sound if they had a little backup in the form of a virtual piano, drums, and keyboard. Microsoft is expecting them to use the new track either as inspiration for further song development or as a simple way to create karaoke-quality recordings for friends and family members.
The software lets users change the feel of a song completely using various sliders that adjust mood, volume levels, tempo and what instruments are being used. Users are also able to purchase additional instruments from Garritan for a small fee that can drastically change the way a track sounds. Each purchased instrument comes wrapped in a special installer that automatically adds it to Songsmith. Dan Morris of Microsoft Research tells me there may eventually be a marketplace for other sample providers, although for now the software is using it exclusively because of its the only compatible format.
Songsmith is starting out as a digital download only, and will be available from Microsoft's recently launched digital downloads store front. Morris says there are no current plans to make the software part of a larger suite of music oriented products from Microsoft. Competitor Apple has offered a slightly similar feature in its Garageband software that gives you virtual band mates that can accompany you as you record music with an in-line microphone, however each of the instruments must be programmed by the user.
One interesting thing to note is that the technology is fully capable of providing automated accompaniment in near real-time. Morris says the only hurdle there is that the programming does all its magic by seeing where users are going with a melody and compensating accordingly. Morris also says a Web based version of the software could be possible later on down the line, although development in that area has been slowed down due to latency and recording quality bottlenecks.
Embedded below are before and after clips of what Songsmith is capable of. As mentioned before, to change the sound of this song users simply need to adjust a slider or two.